Commentary on Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit Literature Review

Please note:   This is a work in progress. Please read:  Industrial Wind Turbines – safe or sound? by Dr. R.Y. McMurtry, MD

Commentary on “The Health Impact of Wind Turbines: A Review of the
Current White, Grey, and Published Literature”. Chatham Kent Public
Health Unit. June 2008
R.Y. McMurtry MD, FRCSC FACS

This work is a literature review.  There is no original research that
has been reported in the document. As a literature review it is weak.
For example mention is made of Nina Pierpont or her case reports of 10
families. The writer then declines to attach any significance to do this
work – surprising behavior for a public health official or public health
unit. Futhermore the writer does not reference her in the bibliography.
No mention is made of Amanda Harry, a physician who has done important
work and reported another case series of adverse health events she
indicated were related to wind turbines. No mention is made of the
Portuguese researchers Alves Perreira and Castello Blanco.  Their work
on vibro-acoustic disease (VAD) has been ongoing for nearly 30 years and
they have linked VAD to wind turbines.

What the writer does do is to quote wind industry sources 26 times (out
of 83 citations). This is unusual as the paper has been written for a
municipal government and purports to be neutral about the health impact
of wind turbines.

Another omission of concern is the consigning of the work of Frey and
Haddon to “Additional Resources” rather than referencing it in the
article.  It is a comprehensive and scholarly work on the subject. Thus
while omitting important literature the writer construes the absence of
evidence as a definitive answer when it is not.  When case reports and
case series are reported by responsible physicians it sounds a
cautionary note.

Errors of commission also occur. Quoting H.G. Leventhall and his paper
“Infrasound from Wind Turbines – Fact, Fiction or Deception” (citation
#54) is appropriate. Quoting him selectively is not. Leventhall
discounts low frequency noise as an issue which is controversial and not
supported by the neurological literature. However he goes on to point
out that “Attention should be focused on the audio frequency fluctuating
swish, which some people may well find to be very disturbing and
stressful, depending on its level.”

At minimum uncertainty exists. When that is the case it is an obligation
of public health authorities to address the issue.
For example an epidemiological study of the people surrounding wind
turbine installations would be a step in creating authorotative
guidelines. That is precisely what many have asked for, including the
Academy of Medicine of France, and that is a well-designed
epidemiological study to refute or confirm the presence of adverse
health events. The writer neglects to quote this recommendation as well.
Another simpler option is a survey of people living near existing wind
turbine installations. No such advice is found in the recommendations.

In short this is a paper that would not be accepted in a responsible
peer review journal. The transgressions of confirmation bias and the
failure to quote relevant literature are fundamental errors. This paper
is not an authoritative contribution to the literature regarding wind
turbines. Finally as a public health document it is seriously deficient.

R.Y.McMurtry M.D. FRCSC FACS
According to the Chatham Kent website the presentation of this work was
made by Dr. David Colby
www.chatham-kent.ca/NR/rdonlyres/CA6E8804-D6FF-42A5-B93B-5229FA127875/7104/July212008.pdf

One thought on “Commentary on Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit Literature Review

  1. Thank you for your analysis, Wayne and for your commentary, Dr. McMurtry.

    A quote from Carl Sagan, one of the 20th century’s geniuses: ” Absence of evidence does not mean evidence is absent.”!

    If I may paraphrase: it just means that no one has bothered to look! as I sit here in Turbine Town, surrounded within a 3 km radius by 18 Vestas 1.65 MW IWT’s with my ears “stuffed”, my head ringing and body worn from sleep deprivation.

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